Friday, July 19, 2013


So this weekend, I'm attending the big miniatures convention in Fredricksburg, Va - Historicon.  This is my second year attending Historicon - last year I went for one day only - Saturday - and brought my son, Liam.  We pretty much stuck to just kid friendly games and had a blast - but this year I thought I'd go down by myself on Friday, and take part in some more "adult" games (get your mind out of the gutter). 

I just got home from the first day, and I have to say that it was - overall - a very frustrating day.  I have come to the conclusion that I am a boardgamer first - and as we were leaving, I mentioned that to my friend Paul Owen.  His response - "funny you should say that, I just blogged about that myself."    Paul eloquently states what I think the crux of the issue is -

"I've mentioned before that I find miniatures gaming to be more about the physical instantiation of the game components that represent the game state than about the gameplay itself.  The length of time required to set up, play, and clean up a game represents a significant investment relative to the number and complexity of decisions that a player makes in that time - not to mention the cost of those components and the time spent painting and assembling them."
 I too, find miniatures games to be very visually appealing - but often at the end of a 4 hour (or much longer) game, I find myself thinking "why wasn't that as fun as I think it should have been"?   Part of the appeal of miniatures is the lack of a board - and the grids/hexes/spaces that confine board game pieces in their movement.  In miniatures, you can go anywhere and do anything, usually with the help of a trusty tape measure.  However, this can also be a detriment, as their is often vagaries that are not covered in the rules, or disagreements on measurements ("you are at 7.05 inches, therefore you're out of range!") 

Rules vagaries was a big part of my dissatisfaction with today's events, but by no means the only one.  First, I learned a very important lesson about Historicon - pre-registration is damn near mandatory if you don't want to be frustrated by lack of game choices.  Historicon is not the "must attend" event that Prezcon, and even WBC have become for me.  Therefore, I waited to just pay my fee at the door - in fact just a few weeks ago, due to some travel that my wife was doing, combined with potential lack of child care, I almost had to scratch Historicon off my list.  However, this is a problem - when I go there at about 8:30 this morning, the tickets for the first 6 or 7 games I was interested in were all gone.  I was getting pretty agitated, and finally snapped at the poor woman behind the counter - "well, what games DO you have?!?!"  I ended up with an 11:00 game centered around some minor skirmish in the American Civil War.  Later, I ran into my friend Grant Greffey, and he mentioned that he was in a 1:00 English Civil War scenario called "The Battle of Alford".

This sounded appealing to me, as I had noticed that in the description of me ACW scenario, it said something like "familiarity with Piquet rules is desired".  Also, the ECW scenaro listed room for only 4 players, while my ACW scenario held 8.  That's a thing I've discovered about miniatures gaming as well - those huge tables with a great big group playing look great...but it can get dreadfully bogged down, and you may only take your turn once an hour or so.  So, I try to limit my playing to scenarios with 6 players or less.  In any case, I swung by the front desk, and miracles of miracles, they still had a ticket for the ECW scenario, so I promptly traded.  The other thing about Historicon, is that if you pre-register, you can sign up for 2 games each day, whereas if you walk in the door, you can only get one ticket per day...leaving you scrounging around for openings in other games. 

Finally, at 1:00 we settled in for our game.  I was immediately disappointed with the battlefield - a simple green piece of felt, with some dirt scattered on it.  Not very exciting compared with some of the other visually stunning set pieces that were on display.  The GM allowed a 5th player in (so much for 4 players), and we took sides - both Scottish, actually, one loyalist, and the other "Covenanters".  The GM briefly described the rules - interestingly, they were running the same scenario three times that day, but using three different rulesets.  We were using a slightly modified "Renaissance Wars" ruleset by Saga.  Unfortunately - and this was also somewhat of an issue, I felt - the GM did not seem as well-versed in the rules as one would hope.  This led to a lot of delays during the game as there was hemming and hawing over various actions.  The game evolved into essentially, our two lines of troops crashing into each other, backing away due to morale rolls, and then crashing into each other again - now this may be what actually happened during that time period, but I found it a little dull after a while.  Grant and I (as the Covenanters) also had what could be called "craptacular" dice rolling.  I had the left flank of our forces, and was pretty evently matched against my counterpart.  In the course of one turn, due to some really bad dice rolls on my part, and really good ones on his part, my troops all but routed off the board.  A few more turns, and we conceded the game.

Our Covenanters prepare to advance on the Loyalists

Shortly after that, I departed to come home.  So, in an 11-hour day (counting travel), I got in all of one game.  Very frustrating.  But, tomorrow I return with my son, and I've already secured tickets to a couple of kid-oriented games.  So, I'm hopeful that things will go better tomorrow. 

One more thing that points to me being a boardgamer over a miniature gamer - at the flea market of the biggest miniature game convention on the east coast...I bought a Eurogame.  Hey, someone had an unpunched version of Le Havre they were selling for $30 - how can I pass that up?

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